Test of an Interpersonal Model of Hypochondriasis

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Abstract

Objective

The aim of this study was to test the interpersonal model of hypochondriasis proposed by Stuart and Noyes. According to this model, hypochondriasis is associated with insecure attachment that in adults gives rise to abnormal care-seeking behavior. Such behavior is associated with interpersonal difficulties and strained patient-physician relationships.

Methods

One hundred sixty-two patients attending a general medicine clinic were interviewed and asked to complete self-report measures. Instruments included the Whiteley Index of Hypochondriasis, Somatic Symptom Inventory, Relationship Scales Questionnaire, Inventory of Interpersonal Problems, NEO Five-Factor Index, and measures of physician-patient interaction. The Structured Diagnostic Interview for DSM-III-R Hypochondriasis was also administered.

Results

Hypochondriacal and somatic symptoms were positively correlated with all of the insecure attachment styles, especially the fearful style. These same symptoms were positively correlated with self-reported interpersonal problems and negatively correlated with patient ratings of satisfaction with, and reassurance from, medical care. Hypochondriacal and somatic symptoms were also positively correlated with neuroticism.

Conclusions

The findings indicate that hypochondriacal patients are insecurely attached and have interpersonal problems that extend to and include the patient-physician relationship. These data support the proposed interpersonal model of hypochondriasis.

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